Friday 24 November 2017

The Strike that hit home

One side was right, the other dead wrong. Those with right on their side – the young Dunnes Stores strikers – paid a high price, writes Gene Kerrigan

Gene Kerrigan

Gene Kerrigan

In 2008, Ben Dunne went on RTE's Liveline and apologised for his behaviour 24 years earlier. "It was wrong", he said. Mary Manning, once an employee of Dunnes Stores, accepted the apology. She was gracious, if seeming a little bemused. Dunne was all into forgive and forget, let's all be friends. Manning was courteous. But if she refrained from embarrassing Dunne, she wasn't in any hurry to wipe the slate clean.

Through the period 1984-1987, a struggle between Ben Dunne and a small group of young workers at the Henry Street, Dublin, branch of Dunnes Stores, created ripples from here to Johannesburg. It was a small but significant element in a fundamental and clear-cut struggle for human progress.

The strikers were young, dependent on their low-paid jobs in a time of persistent recession. Ben Dunne was 35, a millionaire son of a millionaire. Before the strike ended, he would begin paying Charlie Haughey hundreds of thousands of pounds, the guts of two million. He also helped Michael Lowry evade tax, and he gave some crumbs from his table to other politicians.

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